On an interpretative level, this Bulgarian husband-and-wife team makes a first-rate duo. I find the distaff side of the partnership more consistent but there is no doubt that Georgy Valtchev and Lora Tchekoratova know Bartók’s music inside out – and despite being Slav rather than Magyar, they understand his idiom. Recorded in New York, where they did much of their training at the Juilliard School, they also provide excellent value. I do not think anyone else has got both Rhapsodies and both Sonatas on to one disc.
Starting with the Second Rhapsody, they at once sound quite authentic, but Valtchev gives a somewhat insecure impression. He has a wide-ish vibrato and does not always get it working smoothly. Sometimes he starts it late and at other times it disappears so that he sounds a bit scratchy. When the going gets tough his intonation falters.
The Rhapsodies are very atmospherically played, however, with a good dynamic range, and they have terrific ‘go’ in the faster sections. The Sonatas are both fearsome works by comparison but the Valtchevs tackle them head-on, going for every note – you may well feel that you are compensated for any flaws in the violinist’s delivery.
It is marvellous to hear two players who are willing to fine down their tones to a real pianissimo and to go all-out for the spirit of these difficult pieces. The recordings are good, though not outstanding, and the expert annotations are by Abram Loft, former second violinist of the Fine Arts Quartet.
From the August 2008 issue. Subscribe to The Strad or download our digital edition as part of a 30-day free trial.